Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that both himself and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak have agreed there is a window of opportunity to resolve issues regarding the Northern Ireland Protocol.

"It's very clear to me that the prime minister desires a negotiated resolution ... that works," Mr Martin said following his meeting with Mr Sunak in Blackpool.

He said this would then facilitate political stability in Northern Ireland in terms of the restoration of the Executive.

The Taoiseach said everyone has an idea of the challenges and he does not understate the task, but there is a strong determination there on the part of the British government and the EU.

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"Both the prime minister and myself agreed that we would remain very focused on this now with a view to getting a deal as quickly as possible," he said.

The pair met on the margins of the British-Irish Council summit, and held "constructive" discussions around climate and energy costs, as well as the response to Russia's war on Ukraine.

"People and businesses in Northern Ireland have been crystal clear that they want agreed solutions to the protocol issues and now is the time to do so," Mr Martin said.

He added: "I hope this can be achieved and that progress can be made on restoring the Executive and all of the Institutions of the Good Friday Agreement."

The two leaders pose for photographers in Blackpool

Speaking to reporters, Mr Sunak said he wants a "negotiated solution" to the protocol to see devolved government at Stormont restored.

He said: "I think we all recognise that the protocol is having a real impact on the ground, on families, on businesses in Northern Ireland, threatening Northern Ireland's place in the United Kingdom. And I want to resolve that.

"I'm deeply committed to the Belfast Good Friday Agreement. I want to see the institutions back up and running in Northern Ireland because that's what the people in Northern Ireland need and deserve.

"I discussed this with the Taoiseach, we had a very positive meeting.

"And what I want to do is find a negotiated solution preferably, and I'm pleased with the progress that we're making in these early days in this job, and my focus is to try and find a resolution here, get the institutions back up and running.

"That's how we're going to deliver for the people in Northern Ireland."

It is the first time a British Prime Minister has attended the council since Gordon Brown in 2007.

The purpose of the British-Irish Council, created by the Good Friday Agreement, is to foster co-operation between the nations of the UK and Ireland.

The Taoiseach, a Manchester United fan, told Mr Sunak he had just come from Manchester, where he had met former Red Devil and Ireland international Denis Irwin.

It was also the first comprehensive face-to-face meeting between Mr Martin and Mr Sunak after they spoke briefly at the COP27 summit in Egypt earlier in the week.

Right now, the relationship between the Irish and British governments is described as steady, and both are united on the key issues and working well together.

It was expected that Mr Sunak would reiterate his commitment to restoring the Northern Ireland Executive.

The British-Irish Council is made of up Irish and UK government representatives along with those from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey.

The absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Executive means it will not have official representatives at the two-day event.

During his time in Blackpool, Mr Martin will also meet members of the Irish community in the north of England and the Mayor of Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the Dáil that Mr Sunak attending the British-Irish Council "is very welcome, and is a very significant gesture and hopefully it's a sign of a better relationship to come".

The Northern Ireland Secretary has said "today's meeting between the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach is part of hopefully a very positive reset in the relationship that we have with Ireland".

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari, Chris Heaton-Harris added: "And indeed, have a good reset of relationships between James Cleverly and a guy called Maroš Šefčovič, who is the European Commission's negotiator for this matter."

He went on: "The problems are that lots of goods now are not available in Northern Ireland that are available in England, Scotland, and Wales.

"And that's because the European Commission insisted on essentially types of potentially, in the future, customs checks, because they worry about goods flowing from the United Kingdom into the European single market.

"So we absolutely believe we can fix this by sharing of data."

Asked whether we will still be talking about the Northern Ireland Protocol in six months, Mr Heaton-Harris said: "God, I hope not. I mean, it's a very important thing. It really genuinely is. I am a very good Eurosceptic and everything, but there are also many other important things to be talking about."

Additional reporting PA